Ulster coach Mark Anscombe made four personnel changes and two positional switches for Saturday afternoon’s Heineken Cup final Pool Four match against Castres Olympique at Stade Pierre-Antoine (kick off 1.35pm GMT).
Anscombe has opted to partner Paul Marshall with Ruan Pienaar at half back for the crunch fixture. Marshall will wear the number nine jersey, with Pienaar moving to outhalf in place of Paddy Jackson, who is named among the replacements.
With Jared Payne injured, Ireland winger Craig Gilroy is deployed at fullback, allowing Michael Allen to be called up to the left wing for his first European start. Andrew Trimble lines up on the opposite flank, while Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave continue their midfield partnership.
Up front, Neil McComb will also make his first European start after being named at lock in place of Iain Henderson, who drops to the bench. McComb is partnered in the second row by Lewis Stevenson, who was one of 11 Ulstermen to receive a call up to the extended Ireland training squad on Thursday. There are no changes to the front row which includes Rory Best, John Afoa and Tom Court, who has collected Man of the Match awards in two of his last three starts.
Nick Williams, who is out for eight weeks with a medial ligament knee injury, has an able replacement at number 8 in the form of Roger Wilson. Captain Chris Henry and the in-form South African Robbie Diack are the other loose forwards.
With Marshall elevated to the starting XV, Michael Heaney is on the bench along with fellow backs Chris Cochrane and Jackson. Rob Herring, Callum Black and Declan Fitzpatrick retain their places as front row replacements, with Henderson and Mike McComish providing further cover.
The match on Saturday will decide whether Ulster play at home or away in the quarter finals, and it could be a difficult afternoon if past results are anything to go by. The hosts have won three of their last four home games in the Heineken Cup, but lost the reverse fixture at Ravenhill 41-17. Ulster have never won in 14 previous visits to France in the Heineken Cup; the closest they came was a 35-35 draw against Toulouse in 2000.
Castres Olympique: Pierre Bernard; Max Evans, Seremaia Bai, Remy Lamerat, Marcel Garvey; Remi Tales, Rory Kockott; Yannick Forestier, Marc-Antoine Rallier, Anton Peikrishvili, Matthias Rolland (c), Christophe Samson, Mathieu Babillot, Piula Faasalele, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Replacements: Brice Mach, Saimone Taumoepeau, Hai Lazar, Joe Tekori, Thierry Lacrampe, Jannie Bornman, Paul Bonnefond, Marc Andreu.
Ulster Rugby: Craig Gilroy; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Mike Allen; Ruan Pienaar, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry (c), Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Iain Henderson, Mike McComish, Michael Heaney, Paddy Jackson, Chris Cochrane.